A day after police arrested the owner of the Rock Entertainment Center, Kith Theang, over a recent 50 kilogram drug bust, Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Monday ordered the nation’s police forces to improve their efficiency in stamping out the trade and use of drugs.
The arrest of Theang, the brother of Kith Meng, long one of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s closest business associates and the head of the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, was made hours after Hun Sen had ordered police to arrest those related to drug seizure in the popular Rock club.
Speaking at a ceremony to burn counterfeit products in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Kheng said the drug crackdown at Rock Club, which led to the arrest of more than 300 people, was not a minor event and that police should crackdown on such operations no matter who was behind them.
“The more than 300 [people] at Rock the previous day were all young people. There was no older people of the age of 60 to 70. This is what is damaging people’s health and the country’s human resources. So now we have to dare to do surgery; we have to dare to do it,” Kheng said.
Days after the drug crackdown at the Rock club on February 2018, the Phnom Penh police released a report claiming to have found nearly 1,300 foreign bars and clubs that were “vulnerable” to drug use, but that more than 1,000 had already signed contracts to prohibit drug use.
National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said that Theang was sent to court on Tuesday morning. He was later charged and sent to PJ prison for pre-trial detention.
Kim Khoeun said that the authorities will continue to crackdown on any bars, clubs or other places where drugs were used if they had evidence. “We will continue to promote [non-drug use] and our measure will still continue unceasingly in fighting against drugs,” Kim Khoeun said.
San Chey, the executive director of the Cambodia-based Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific, said he had little trust on the commitments made by the experts about cracking down on drug use because so many cases go untouched. He said that the arrest of Theang had only been carried out after the direct order from Hun Sen himself.
“Both the court and authorities still wait for the green light from the prime minister, particularly related to big cases like a big drug case in the center of the city,” Chey said.
Kheng said during his speech on Tuesday that the government’s current anti-drugs campaign was now reaching its second anniversary and that authorities had confiscated nearly 500 kilograms of drugs in that time. He did not say how many people had been arrested in this time.